The ISIS Crisis in the Middle East

Two friends asked us to comment on some recent news items. The comments they sought related to ISIS, Israel, the proposed "Psalm 83 war," the Isaiah 17 war(s) and the timing of the Gog-Magog wars of Ezekiel 38 and 39. Here is a detailed response.

We start with an introductory summary so that the final outcome may be discerned. The reasons for these conclusions are then traced through in detail in the rest of this article.

In summary, it seems that the Psalm 83 battle has been completely fulfilled in the 6 Day War of June 1967, when Israel got Jerusalem back. ISIL currently has the potential to perhaps gain power in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and parts of Jordan and thereby provoke the Isaiah 17 war with Israel. Israel suffers terribly, though she is victorious. Then the international war in the second part of Isaiah 17 (verses 12-14) may well be the Russian confederacy of Ezekiel 38 which comes to wipe Israel out when she is at her weakest. There is a miraculous and personal intervention of God in this battle as Isaiah, Zechariah, Zephaniah and Ezekiel all point out. It is possible that the Rapture may also occur then. It seems that the 7-year Covenant of Antichrist may be signed as a result of that war according to Daniel 11:22, 23. Then, at the conclusion of that 7 year period, the run-up to the Battle of Armageddon occurs as in Daniel 11:42-44. Verse 45 is the actual battle itself in which the Russians in Ezekiel 39 are probably a part. Justification for these conclusions is given below.

One pertinent news item noted the insistent comment by the Occupant of the Oval Office that it was ISIL rather than ISIS that was rampaging through the Mid-East. The difference is rather significant. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (note the two countries involved). ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant covers Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. The Occupant appears to be saying that he knows their goal is the Levant and acknowledges that he is going to do little to stop them. This inaction comes from his Muslim upbringing. He knows that this group hopes to set up a Caliphate to precipitate the coming of the Mahdi. He is basically in tune with these ideas because of his upbringing and so will cooperate as far as he is able.

With this in mind, ISIS/ISIL realize that they have until the end of 2016 to achieve their goal as the Occupant will then be replaced in the election. Effective inaction by America cannot be guaranteed beyond that. However, there is the possibility that the following administration may be sympathetic to the Muslim cause if Muslim Brotherhood advisors are retained as part of the staff as they are now. This practice was initiated by the Clinton administration and re-instituted by the Obama team, including Hillary Clinton. If this is what occurs after the 2016 Presidential elections, then the favorable attitude towards the Muslims may continue for at least another 4, and perhaps 8, years. However, the immediate goal is to achieve as much as possible by 2016.

If the ISIS goal is indeed the Levant, as the Occupant hints, then this throws a new light on Isaiah 17 and the associated passages in Zechariah, Zephaniah, Amos, Obadiah etc. In those passages, Damascus is wiped out, Syria is ruined, the east bank of the Jordan decimated and so is southern Lebanon, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza is destroyed. The reading of those passages indicates that Israel fights against the forces located in those areas. ISIL is already in Syria, has cells in western Jordan, is allied with and helps Hamas in Gaza, while the Hezbollah in southern Lebanon are currently being infiltrated by them. These other groups will all switch allegiance to ISIL who would then use all the weaponry against Israel that these groups had already stored in preparation for a war to wipe out Israel. So it seems that ISIL may be in view in these passages.

The scenario which develops is that ISIL moves into these areas, and, because of their hatred of Israel, will eventually attack her from the borders of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan and from within Israel itself from the Palestinian territories. It seems that Israel is left alone to deal with this threat, due to American inaction. Israel wins out against the insurgents according to Isaiah 17, but at a frightful cost. Israel comes back in twos and threes. It is "a harvest of grief and desperate sorrow." (Isaiah 17:6 and 11). Since the USA Presidential elections may possibly have some bearing on the timing for the action of ISIS and the other Muslim militants, we may, perhaps, be looking at a time-frame for this event not long after 2016.

As a result of the Isaiah 17 battle, Israel settles in southern Lebanon "until there be no place left for them" (Zechariah 10:10). Consequently, Israel has an expanded territory, extending from the Zahrani River in southern Lebanon, through part of Syria (including the entire Golan area and the east bank of the Jordan south of it (“Gilead” in Obadiah 19). The current “West Bank” area (the fields of Ephraim and Samaria” (Obadiah 19) and Gaza are seemingly free from any Palestinian threat, and so would appear to come under total Israeli control. We are told that a “mixed race” will dwell at Asdod” (Zechariah 9:6), so obviously some Palestinian Arabs will be part of the enlarged Israeli borders. These verses seem to indicate an increased rate of Jews returning to Israel from around the world. This is already happening due to the anti-Jewish attitudes which are becoming prevalent in many nations. The ISIS phenomenon seems to be amplifying this trend. This event is reiterated in Jeremiah 16:14-16. How much of this occurs before the second half of Isaiah 17 is unknown, but all the following verses are in the context of Israel’s victory against the Syrian threat and the wipe-out of Damascus. As a consequence, the complete fulfillment of the Jewish return may not occur until Isaiah 17 closes.

Following Israel's initial "victory", there is then an attack from other nations to wipe Israel out in her weakest moment outlined in the second half of Isaiah 17. These verses, 12-14, say that this international group comes "like a rolling thing before the whirlwind" to wipe out the Israeli remnant forever. But there is a miraculous intervention of God: "Behold, at evening tide there is trouble, but before the morning he is not. This is the lot of those that rob us and those that spoil us." Zechariah 9:14 says of that event that the Lord appears over them and blows the trumpet. This is reiterated in Zephaniah 2:9 in the most ancient LXX version dating from 285 BC, where the Damascus wipe-out is specifically in view along with the subsequent Trumpet blast from God. Since the only time in the New Testament we find God blowing the Trumpet (not the angels as in Revelation) is for the Rapture, this event might therefore be associated with this battle. Daniel 11 picks up a similar battle and says as an outcome of that war, the 7-year Covenant begins. Daniel 11:22 mentions the battle and as a result he says "...and yes, the Covenant begins." (literal Hebrew). A fuller discussion and quotation of all the verses relating to the Isaiah 17 battle can be found in the Damascus article.

The question was asked whether or not the "Psalm 83 war", which has received so much prominence in some Christian circles recently, is going to be the next war. We doubt it. The Psalm 83 war was specifically fulfilled to the letter by the 6 Day War of 1967. I remember teaching on that specific topic some time after that event. Indeed it is most unlikely to occur now because of the line-up of nations in there. Let us expand on this a little.

First, in Psalm 83 the Hagarites (Egyptians) are there. Egypt has had a long-standing peace agreement with Israel that the present leadership under President Al Sisi is strongly maintaining. In fact cooperation between Egypt and Israel occurred in the last battle in Gaza with Hamas in July/August 2014. Egypt prevented supplies reaching Hamas. This cooperation looks set to continue. So, unless the Muslim Brotherhood (which originates in Turkey) gets back into power in Egypt, there is unlikely to be an Egyptian component in any battle line-up as the Scripture require for Psalm 83. Incidentally, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed in Egypt since Al Sisi came to power and Turkey is furious. Daniel 11: 25-45 makes it plain that trouble between Turkey and Egypt is the cause of 3 battles during the 7 year Tribulation, the last one leading to the Battle of Armageddon.

The second thing pertaining to the Psalm 83 battle is that, while Assyria (Iraq) is mentioned there, Persia (Iran) is not. At the moment, Iran would be expected to join any confederacy against Israel. The fact that Iran is not mentioned indicates that Psalm 83 is not addressing the current situation. Importantly, Iraqi troops were indeed involved against Israel in 1967, but Persia (Iran) was not. The present anti-Israeli leadership in Iran did not come to power until well after the 1967 war. Indeed it was the 11th January 1979 when the Shah of Iran was deposed and the new regime began. The anti-Israel bias was not there before that. Therefore, as all this is put together, I do not expect a present fulfillment of Psalm 83; rather it was already fulfilled in 1967 before the present Iranian leadership came to power. The battle which Israel faces in the near future is the one involving Damascus in Isaiah 17 with the possibility of the Rapture at the second phase of that chapter when many nations rush against Israel in response to Israel's destruction of what could possibly be ISIL forces.

Several other points can be made: The first is that, after the close of the Isaiah 17 battles, the 7-year Covenant may be in place according to Daniel 11:22. Daniel 8 and 11 both suggest that the Antichrist comes from Turkey and Daniel 8, it points out that Antichrist becomes strong towards the east (Iraq ) and towards the south (Syria). So it appears as if Turkey may appropriate some of the lands won by ISIL after the insurgent’s defeat at the hands of Israel.

In view of the fact that Antichrist is probably Turkish, and because of the potential time-factor of a 2016 deadline for some events, we note that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just gained the Presidency there in an electoral victory in August of 2014. He is virtually a dictator now, or will be if his AKP party wins the general election in mid 2015. The presidential term has just been set as 9 years, so Erdogan could sign a 7-year covenant anytime in the next 2 years or so, if he is indeed the Antichrist. Erdogan’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davotoglu, is of the same mind as his President and has assisted him in formulating Turkey’s present policies. If events work out more slowly than expected, there is a possibility that Davotoglu may become Antichrist instead of Erdogan a few years hence.

It may therefore come as no great surprise that the ISIL forces were trained, armed and supported by Turkey who also supplied their medical requirements including hospitalization. In addition, Turkey fully cooperated with ISIL to make their victories possible. Two weeks before ISIL moved into Iraq and Syria, Erdogan used the 4 dams that Turkey has on the Euphrates, including the huge Ataturk dam, to stop the flow of the river downstream. In two weeks the river level dropped 20 feet in Iraq and became a mere trickle. The water shortage in Syria and Iraq then crippled the populace just at the time the ISIL troops came through, so resistance to ISIL was low. But ISIL troops were prepared for the water shortage. In a word, Turkey is manipulating the ISIL situation. Indeed, on Tuesday, 23 September, 2014, the pro-Kurdish Amed news agency was forced by discreptant events to ask if ISIS was actually the para-military wing of the Turkish government.

My friend’s final question related to the timing of the Ezekiel 38 and 39 War. Some have taken Ezekiel 38 and 39 together as both referring to the battle of Armageddon just mentioned. However, while Ezekiel 39 is linked with 38 by its subject matter, a careful reading suggests that the two are different. However, before we consider these differences in detail, several statements about the Israeli situation that exists at that time in Ezekiel 38 claim our attention.

Ezekiel 38:8 says that the nation of Israel has been gathered from worldwide dispersion into the land of Israel that has been bought back by warfare. That has only been true since 1948 and 1967. Verse 11 says that the cities of Israel will be without walls. This was unthinkable in Ezekiel’s day as it implied they were easy prey, but it is the usual practice today. Verse 11 also says that the Israelis will be a “peaceful people,” but will have this war inflicted upon them. This description has basically been true since 1948. The Jews want peace, but their neighbors have inflicted numerous wars upon them as they have tried to eradicate them from the land.

Another piece of information about the Israelis may be important in setting the timing of the battle of Ezekiel 38. That is found in two verses, namely 38:8 and 38:11 where it is stated that Israel then dwells “safely” or “securely,” dependent upon the translation. This Israel has never done. Indeed, the earliest that this can happen is following the wipeout of her enemies in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West-Bank as indicated by Isaiah 17 and associated verses. Complete security may take a little time to accomplish after that, which would suggest that the second half of Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38 are some reasonable time after the first half of Isaiah 17. But this timing is predicated upon that translation of the Hebrew word “Batach” which can be found in Strongs as 982. It comes as a surprise to realize that this word basically means “trustingly, confidently, boldly, carelessly”. Indeed in Ezekiel 39:6 in the KJV, the translation uses the same word and says that fire will be sent on those who “live carelessly in the isles.”This places a different complexion on the problem, since even today the Israelis dwell confidently and boldly in their land despite their hostile neighbors. In that case, Ezekiel 38, if it is indeed the same battle as the second half of Isaiah 17, could happen any time soon after the Damascus wipe-out.

Turning to Ezekiel 38 specifically, As far as the countries involved in the Ezekiel 38 battle are concerned, we note that the main combatants are “Rosh, prince of Meshech and Tubal.” Analysis shows that “Rosh” is the nation of the Russians, with the tribal name of the Toboloi (Tubal) memorialized in the old eastern Russian capital of Tobolsk. In a similar way it can be shown that the tribal name Meshech is preserved in the present capital of Moscow.

Persia (Iran) is a country prominent in that confederacy. However, in the KJV, a misleading translation suggests that Libya also comes with the confederacy. The word used is actually Put or Phut, which was an old Persian tribe. That translation also lists Ethiopia as one of the confederacy. What is not realized is that the ancients recognized two Ethiopias, an Eastern and a Western. The Western Ethiopians were described by Herodotus as having “woolly hair” and occupying what is the Sudan and Ethiopia in Africa today. The Eastern Ethiopians had “straight hair” and came from east of Persia; that is Afghanistan and Pakistan. These come with Russia.

Also mentioned is the "house of Togarmah" which analysis reveals are the Stans" (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Khazakstan, etc) rather than Turkey as is sometimes assumed. In fact, Turkey is the Dardarni and related tribes from which we get the Dardanelles. Furthermore, the LXX of Ezekiel 38:13 refers to the “merchants of Chalcedon” (as well as the Saudis and Yemenis) standing aside from the conflict and asking Russia what she intends to do. Chalcedon was the ancient merchant city which became Constantinople and then Istanbul in Turkey as we have it today. Thus Turkey is not involved in Ezekiel 38.

Note that the confederacy we have in Ezekiel 38 actually omits Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, but includes Persia. The lands of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq will have just been decimated by the Israelis in the Isaiah 17 battle. Iran is not involved in that battle as it wants ISIL destroyed, too, but will not help the Israelis. But she would come with a Russian force as they have a mutual military agreement that has been in place since the mid 1900's which Russia affirmed is still in operation with the present Iranian leadership. From these facts, it appears that Russia comes down through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran to get into Israel. That is why Iranian troops are so prominent.

With the current Russian exercises in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, it would take little to cause them to come down into Israel. It is therefore highly likely that Ezekiel 38 may find its fulfillment in the battle that occurs in the second half of Isaiah 17 after the Israeli victory against what is probably ISIL. The miraculous intervention of God in Ezekiel 38 and the miraculous intervention of God in Isaiah 17, and the appearance of God over the forces blowing the Trumpet of Zephaniah and Zechariah, and the possibility of a simultaneous Rapture, all seem to point to this.

Notice one thing, however. There is one country that is unaffected by the ISIL problem. That same country is also absent from the line-up of those coming with Russian in its invasion. That country is Turkey. The Russian and Persian (Iranian) armies have been wiped out. The USA may have suffered also. [This is suggested in Isaiah 18 which is all part of the original prophetic utterance which began in Isaiah 17: there is no chapter division in the original and so it is in the context of the Damascus wipe-out. The country concerned in Isaiah 18 has many of its cities devastated. The cause may have been the war itself or the results of the massive earthquakes and volcanic fire associated with the Ezekiel 38 event. That country (USA?) is described as “The land overshadowed by rushing wings which lies beyond the rivers of Africa. … A land of people tall and smooth of skin…who send ambassadors around the world in swift vessels…when they blow the trumpet (for war) the world listens….” etc. It seems like the USA.]

Thus with all these players eliminated from the scene, this leaves Turkey and Egypt as the key players in the Mid-East. Turkey is then able to make a 7-year covenant to bring "peace" to a war-torn world. Then the Tribulation begins with the 3 massive wars between Turkey (the king of the north) and Egypt (the king of the south) in Daniel 11:21-45. That the king of the north (Turkey) is antichrist is apparent from Daniel 11:31 as he sets up the Abomination of Desolation in the Temple. So the geo-political alignment after Isaiah 17 favors Turkey with her ambition of a Mid-East Caliphate. That Caliphate may already be in the making with the 10 nation Mediterranean Union of which Turkey forms the backbone.

Another point of interest is that, according to Daniel 11:40-45, the prelude to the battle of Armageddon comes when Egypt (the king of the south in the context of the break-up of Alexander's empire) comes against Antichrist (the King of the north, Turkey in the same context). Antichrist sweeps down through Egypt and north Africa and then hears news from the East (the 200 million Chinese/India army - Revelation 16:12 and 9:14-16) and out of the North (the Russian mobilization of Ezekiel 39 – a separate battle from Ezekiel 38). Antichrist then plants his command headquarters on the Temple mount in Jerusalem and the battle of Armageddon begins. We know how it ends...the Lord comes back to reign on earth for the Millennium.

The comments in Ezekiel 39 make an additional statement beyond what the Bible discussed in 38. It reads as follows: "Thus says the Lord God: Behold I am against you O Gog and Rosh, prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you turn you back (from what happened in chapter 38) and will lead you on, and will cause you to come up (again) from the recesses of the North and will bring you (again) onto the mountains of Israel. …" No other group is mentioned as coming with Rosh, Meshech and Tubal on this second occasion, just the many troops with them. Furthermore, on this second occasion, verses 4 and 17 ff. mention that the birds of the air and the beasts of the field come to feast at God's sacrifice. This is exactly in line with Armageddon in Revelation 19:17, 18. Finally, the verses 7 and 21-29 refer to the glory of the Lord being set among the nations (the Millennium), as well as the nations all knowing that He is the Lord, including the house of Israel, from that day onwards. That does not happen at all before the Tribulation, and not during it either. Ezekiel 39 concludes by saying that the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on Israel at that time. That only occurs at the conclusion of Armageddon and the inception of the Millennium.

So in summary, we see the Psalm 83 battle as having been completely fulfilled in the 6 Day War of 1967, when Israel got Jerusalem back. We will probably see ISIL gaining more power in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and parts of Jordan and provoking the Isaiah 17 war with Israel suffering terribly, though victorious. Then the second part of Isaiah 17 (verses 12-14) probably being the Russian and Islamic confederacy of Ezekiel 38 which comes to wipe her out when she is at her weakest. There is a miraculous intervention of God as Isaiah, Zechariah and Zephaniah and Ezekiel point out. It is possible that the Rapture occurs at that stage. Since the Covenant is probably signed as a result of that war (Daniel 11:22, 23), the Rapture cannot be delayed much beyond that battle. Some 7 years later, the Battle of Armageddon is detailed in Daniel 11:42-45. Verses 42-44 are the run up to the final battle, with the last verse being Armageddon itself in which the Russians in Ezekiel 39 play a part.

Barry Setterfield, 22nd September, 2014